MINNEAPOLIS -- Delta Air Lines is hinting that its frequent flier program will increasingly favor big spenders over travelers who simply rack up miles.Such a change would generally reward business travelers, who often fly on short notice on more-expensive tickets, versus leisure travelers who might fly long distances but often on cheaper fares.Air travelers have long complained that a $700 ticket buys them a seat next to someone who might be riding on a fare sale for, say, $200.Last week, Delta announced that in 2014 frequent fliers will need to spend at least $2,500 to qualify for the lowest level of elite status. Previously, they could qualify on miles alone. The highest level of elite status will require spending $12,500.Travelers prize that status because it moves them to the front of airport lines and lets them qualify for upgrades to first class. Delta said the shift was to make sure "our most valued customers receive the best program benefits and a more exclusive experience."Delta appears to be planning more changes in that direction.More and more airlines are steering greater rewards to the travelers who spend more.Two years ago, Dallas-based Southwest Airlines changed its frequent flier program to reward more-expensive tickets. The change jarred some Southwest customers used to its egalitarian image, with no business class or assigned seats. JetBlue's "True Blue" frequent flier program awards points based on dollars spent, not on miles.
Sandy washes away profits
Delta Air Lines. said its fourth-quarter profit was nearly wiped out by Superstorm Sandy and special charges.
Sandy cut $100 million from its fourth-quarter profit, the Atlanta-based carrier said Tuesday. It recorded another $231 million in special items, leaving net income of only $7 million, or a penny per share. During the same period last year, Delta earned $425 million, or 51 cents per share.
Without special items, earnings would have been $238 million, or 28 cents per share.
Revenue rose 2 percent to $8.6 billion. Both the adjusted profit and the revenue were slightly better than expected by analysts surveyed by FactSet.
-- The Associated Press